Montana Adopts New Wolf Hunting Regulations Near Yellowstone National Park

by Alex Falls

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted on new regulations for wolf hunting at a meeting this week in Helena. The new regulations include special considerations for the hunting of wolves near Yellowstone National Park.

The Commission voted to eliminate the state’s current 18 Wolf Management Units (WMU) on Thursday. For this coming hunting season, wolves will now be managed in seven regional trapping units and one WMU. The new WMU 313 combines the old WMU 313 and WMU 316. Both of which borders the north side of Yellowstone National Park.

They also voted on established hard quotas for each trapping district totally 450 wolves combined. Independent of the trapping districts, a quota of six wolves was set for the new WMU 313. The commission had recommended a quota of 10 wolves for the new WMU. But the commission said the number was lowered to six after receiving input from the public and the National Parks service.

“One of the things that is really important to me is this sense of trying to get to some level of compromise,” said Fish and Wildlife Commission Vice Chair Patrick Tabor. “We all know what happened to the Gardiner area. So if this creates a little bit or reprieve in terms of what will happen, in the tourism perspective, I think that was compelling.”

New Regulations for Wolf Hunting in Montana

A total of 21 wolves were killed by hunters between WMU 313 and 316 during the 2021-2022 wolf season. One pack from Yellowstone Park, the Phanton Lake Pack, was thought to be eliminated according to park biologists.

The quotas for WMU 313 and WMU 316 in the 2019-2020 hunting season were set at two per unit. The low quota was established with the intent to follow state law regarding the management of wolves while limiting the impact of Yellowstone wolves.

In 2021, the Fish and Wildlife Commission saw significant member changes following the election of Republican Governor Greg Gianforte. Membership into the commission is appointed by the governor. That year, Gianforte’s appointed commission removed all quotas for WMUs near Yellowstone. Instead choosing to manage quotas on a regional basis.

The number of wolves killed in Montana during the 2021-2022 season outside Yellowstone drew major outcry from local wildlife advocates. Park Superintendent Cam Sholly wrote to Montana Governor Greg Gianforte asking him to halt hunting in the two zones that border the park.

“The positive economic impacts of visitors viewing wolves in Yellowstone is estimated to be well over $30 million annually, most of which is spent in Montana communities and counties,” Sholly said.

The commission estimates there are about 1,100 wolves currently living in Montana. They also estimate a total of 273 wolves were killed across the state by hunters in the 2021-2022 wolf season. Prompting the new rules and regulations.